National Press Club, First Amendment Lounge
529 14th St NW, Washington, DC
July 27, 2018 · 2pm-3:30pm
The transcript is available below.
This week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was pressed by Senate Foreign Relations Committee members on the status of negotiations with North Korea and the fulfillment of the pledge made by President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.
Pompeo noted that there is an "awful long way to go" on complete and verifiable denuclearization, but that such remains the goal before the end of the Trump administration. He said the United States will not let diplomacy drag out forever.
But as the summit statement makes clear, progress toward the goal of denuclearization will depend, in part, on whether there is a process and a framework for establishing an enduring peace regime on the Korean peninsula.
On July 27—the 65th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice—Tony Namkung will deliver remarks at a briefing hosted by the Arms Control Association on how a “three-party” framework for talks on reducing tensions and building a peace regime could work.
Namkung has been intimately involved for many years in fostering dialogue between North Korea, South Korea, Japan, and the United States and has made more than 70 trips to North Korea. He is largely credited with facilitating the release of three Americans from North Korea in 2014 and the release of two journalists in 2009. He was instrumental in President Jimmy Carter's visit to North Korea in 1994, which was critical for negotiations leading to the Agreed Framework. He has also advised Governor Bill Richardson on his work with North Korea. Namkung is currently a visiting scholar at the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies.
Namkung’s presentation will be followed by an expert panel on the key steps and sequence for the final and verified denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, featuring:
- Mark Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of the IISS-Americas and the head of the Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Policy Programme for the International Institute for Strategic Studies,
- Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy at the Arms Control Association, and
- Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association.
The event was on the record.
KIMBALL: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Daryl Kimball and I am the executive director of the independent, nonpartisan nongovernmental Arms Control Association based here in Washington, DC. We are dedicated to addressing the threats posed by the world’s most dangerous weapons, including, of course, nuclear weapons.
We are here today at the National Press Club for our briefing on “Three-Party Talks on Peace and Talks on Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
We gather here today on the 65th anniversary of the armistice of 1953. But as we all know, decades later, however, tensions between North Korea, South Korea, and South Korea's ally, the United States, has not ended.
Over the course of the last several decades, North Korea has pursued dangerous capabilities including nuclear weapons and missile technology to protect their security, they say, and to deter potential U.S. aggression.
For a long time, beginning with U.S. president George H.W. Bush, the U.S. has sought to use diplomacy and pressure to keep North Korea in compliance with its nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligations by verifiably halting and eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons capabilities.
There has been some limited success in the past, such as the 1994 Agreed Framework pursued by President Bill Clinton that halted North Korea’s plutonium program for about eight years, but ultimately that agreement and other efforts fell apart as the two sides accused one another of failing to follow-through on their respective commitments.
So, today, North Korea has a nuclear weapons arsenal of some 20-50 warheads–the exact number is not clear—and ballistic missiles that can deliver those weapons to targets in northeast Asia. Last year it successfully tested a long-range missile capable of reaching the United States.
The reality is that any conflict with North Korea today would likely involve nuclear weapons and the death of millions if not tens of millions of Korean, Japanese, and American people in the region and beyond.
After raising tensions through North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, Kim Jong Un—as well as Donald Trump and his threats of “fire and fury”—brought the situation last year nearly to the point at which many believed a war could break out. But Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump with the help of South Korea's President Moon Jae-in have now embarked on a different kind of effort, an effort to create a peace regime on the peninsula and an effort to halt and reverse, and hopefully, eliminate North Korea's dangerous nuclear and missile programs.
So, earlier this year, the North Koreans said they would halt nuclear testing and ballistic missile testing. North and South Korean leaders held a summit in Panmunjeom. And later, North Korean destroyed some of the test tunnels at its one official nuclear test site.
And then, of course, at their historic summit in Singapore, June 12th, President Trump committed to providing security guarantees to the DPRK and Kim Jong Un re-affirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
And then after the summit, of course, President Trump agreed to temporarily suspend U.S.-South Korean military exercises as a sign of good faith and North Korea dismantled a missile test launch facility. And then, of course, just in the past 24 hours, we've seen the State Department confirm that military transport aircraft has arrived back in South Korea with the remains of U.S. military personnel lost in the war.
So, all of these steps are important, confidence-building steps, but they're all reversible. And the situation that we have today is still very uncertain and still dangerous. And in their first round of post-summit follow-up talks held in Pyongyang earlier this year, Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and his North Korean counterparts, unfortunately, did not make significant progress in their negotiations on these issues.
It's not clear to me or the Arms Control Association whether there's a clear process and the necessary political will to follow through on the ambitious goals outlined by President Trump and Chairman Kim in Singapore. So, clearly, to maintain progress in the weeks and months and years ahead, each side is going to have to show greater flexibility, creativity, and leadership to advance the action-for-action steps on denuclearization as well as establishing a peace regime on the peninsula.
So, we're gathered here today because we wanted to focus attention on these two very important objectives and how the process can be moved forward, what some of the key steps might be, and what some of the priorities might be.
And we're very pleased to have with us here today Tony Namkung, to talk about how a three-party framework for talks on reducing tensions and building a peace regime on the peninsula could work. Tony has been intimately involved for many years in fostering important dialogue between North Korea, South Korea, Japan and the United States and he has made an incredible number of trips, more than 70 or so, over the years. And he's currently a visiting scholar at the University of Washington's Jackson School of International Affairs.
So, I'm going to invite, in just a second, Tony up here to the podium to address that topic. And then after he takes a few questions from those of you here in the audience, we're going to hear from our expert panel of Mark Fitzpatrick who's Executive Director of the Americas and the Head of the Non-Proliferation Program at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and Kelsey Davenport, the Director for Nonproliferation Policy at the Arms Control Association on the denuclearization task and the steps ahead. And then we'll take your questions for them after they speak.
So, with that introduction, I want to invite Tony to come up to the podium to deliver his remarks and then we'll take your question. So, thanks for being here. The floor is yours.
NAMKUNG: Thank you, Daryl Kimball, for that kind introduction, and thanks to the Arms Control Association for hosting this occasion. A special thank you to Ambassador Cho Yoon-je of the Republic of Korea for attending today's briefing. I am truly honored.
We awoke this morning to the welcome news that North Korea had returned 55 sets of MIA remains from the Korean War on this, the 65th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice Agreement that halted the fighting.
So, it seems especially timely to ask once again how to begin the Korean peace process that has eluded us for so long. Such a peace process in parallel with nuclear talks is essential if we are to make headway in the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
To understand why we have to understand the DPRK's long-standing objective–an end to its lifelong enmity with the United States, or what the North calls the U.S.'s hostile policy. What this entails, according to Pyongyang, is the normalization of political and economic relations, the relaxation of sanctions, and above all, a peace regime on the Korean peninsula.
President Trump and Secretary Pompeo seemed aware of Chairman Kim Jong Un's desire to end enmity and have taken important steps to address it. What better way to start than to sit down at the negotiating table with Kim Jong Un, sign a joint statement with him and suspend joint exercises, or to say as the President has, that he is prepared to end the Korean War and to normalize relations, something his predecessors never tried.
Ultimately, he may have to find a way to forge an alliance with Pyongyang alongside the one with Seoul, or as Secretary Pompeo put it on June 7, we want to achieve a fundamentally different strategic relationship between our two countries. How else to assure Chairman Kim that he will be secure enough to consider yielding his nuclear arms?
The fact that our leaders understand that denuclearization needs to be accompanied by peace and by a wholly different relationship as two equally important imperatives shows us how far the United States has come from the old and tired crime and punishment and sticks-and-carrots models of past negotiations.
But also let me be very clear, the United States has reached out to North Korea in entirely new and unprecedented ways. If the extraordinary momentum achieved in Singapore is not to die on the vine, the DPRK must also take actions on the nuclear issue that are equally new and unprecedented beginning with the opening of regular diplomatic channels that do not exist at the moment and the taking of rapid actions that will demonstrate its unalterable commitment to what Secretary Pompeo calls final, fully verifiable denuclearization.
So, how best do we begin a peace process? My answer is three-party talks or consultations involving the United States, South Korea, and North Korea. Why?
First, they are the only states with forces in Korea. So, all three former combatants have to agree to end the war. They could begin with the declaration committing them to sign a peace treaty and pledging non-hostility in the meantime.
They could work out confidence-building measures to reduce the risk of deadly clashes. Since their forces are involved, all three would have to agree on most CBMs.
Second, while such arrangements could be negotiated bilaterally between the two Koreas, U.S. involvement in a peace process that parallels and does not precede denuclearization might ease concerns among conservatives in the South. President Moon understands this and appreciates the need to stress the validity of the alliance and to operate within it in order to avoid the mistake of the so-called Sunshine Policy of his liberal predecessors.
Third, three-party talks will likely be acceptable to Pyongyang, which has moved well beyond its one-time dismissal of South Korea as a U.S. puppet and insistence that peace had to be negotiated with Washington. It has gradually adopted a more realistic position moving from treating the South as a junior partner to full-fledged equal.
The 1991 basic accords between the Koreas was signed by the two governments. Although forces in the Korean Workers' Party have long controlled inter-Korean relations through various entities, a February 16, 2012 statement by the Foreign Ministry's Institute for Disarmament and Peace broke new ground by calling for the improvement in inter-Korean ties as the key to effective diplomacy with the other powers by which they meant denuclearization.
By calling for the United States to play a facilitative role in the Korean peninsula and by calling for China to keep out, the stance has been quite evident in Track II context.
Fourth, DPRK Foreign Ministry officials tend to think of reconciliation as an interim solution prior to reunification in which the role of U.S. forces is redefined as peacekeepers and not only between the two Koreas but also vis-à-vis China and Japan easing potential conflict between them and servicing as harmonizer and stabilizer in the region.
Three-party talks will force the foreign ministries to play a central role since the Korean Workers' Party cannot sign treaties with foreign powers. If the North and South prove reluctant to sign a peace treaty because they are not separate states, the issue of sovereignty can be finessed at the conclusion of negotiations by formally casting the treaty as a United Nations treaty, which both could sign as they have with the past UN treaties.
Fifth, while Washington has yet to officially endorse the three-party talks, the Trump administration may be amenable. When President Moon Jae-in proposed the idea of a three-way declaration of the end of the Korean War recently to President Trump, his response was, that's a great idea. South Korea can be helpful in advancing this approach since neither the DPRK nor the United States is likely to be the first to propose three-way talks.
What then is China's role? It would be involved at a later point in negotiating a formal treaty and sign it as a guarantor. It would also play a central role in eventually creating a Northeast Asia security forum model on the CSCE in Europe, building on its past chairmanship of the six-party talks.
It is not only the issue of a peace regime that should be handled on the three-way basis. The nuclear issue may best be handled in three-way talks as well.
The Panmunjeom declaration of April 27 between North and South by confirming, quote, "the common goal of realizing through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean peninsula," unquote, acknowledges the critical role that South Korea must play in denuclearization, not only in the creation of a peace regime.
And by further stating that South and North Korea agreed to actively seek the support and cooperation of the international community for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, it has opened the door to initial three-party and later, multilateral negotiations.
During the six-party talks, there were two occasions where the North and South Korean foreign ministries met, once in Bali and once in Beijing, to discuss nuclear issues. Granted, they were strictly speaking not bilateral talks because South Korea happened to occupy the chair of the energy and economic assistance subgroup in the six-party talks and North Korea is always quick to point that out.
But these contacts along with the South Korean Foreign Ministry visit to Yangon to negotiate the purchase of fresh fuel rods show that the two Koreas could discuss issues pertinent to denuclearization. And North Korean foreign ministry officials seemed open to further context if others, namely the United States, is involved.
So, these are some of the trends and policies that have been evident in past talks between the U.S. and North Korea and between the two Koreas themselves that suggests a three-way approach may be the most useful for moving ahead on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
But what will clinch the process of denuclearization is an understanding that the United States, North Korea, and South Korea are bound up in a larger historical process in which their respective roles are radically shifting. Let me explain.
I have stated already that Track II meetings have shown that North Korea today is open to an interim solution, interim state of affairs in the peninsula whereby reunification, while remaining the eventual goal of all Koreans, is deferred to future generations to resolve.
They have also stated in these meetings that during this period, U.S. troops can and should remain in Korea. American officials shared similar statements in official talks as early as in 1992, so did South Korean President Kim Dae-jung during his summit with Kim Jong Il in 2000 and other officials over the years.
North Korean officials in Track II meetings have been known to propose different versions of this idea that have caught Americans by surprise. For example, U.S. troops should be moved into the DMZ so that they can naturally protect the South against the North, but also protect the North against the South.
In other words, they should be transformed into a peacekeeping force. Over time, they can play more of a facilitative role urging the two Koreas to reach new military agreements that strengthen the peace regime and process.
As I have said, the future role of U.S. troops is not limited to peacekeeping in the peninsula. They are there also to buffer Korea from conflicts among the major powers in the region whether the issues are territorial disputes, military buildups or more serious clashes.
An entire generation has passed since the end of the Cold War. In the meantime, China has become a major player both in the region and in the world. Perforce, the U.S.'s relative standing in the region has lessened.
If denuclearization and peace can be achieved in the Korean peninsula, it could become a zone of peace where one half remains a strong alliance partner with the United States while the other half enjoys friendly relations with it. North Korean officials have been known even to propose a U.S.-DPRK mutual security treaty to be followed by a Marshall plan to rehabilitate the North Korean economy.
The argument goes like this, "You and Japan were bitter enemies at one time. Today, you are the closest of allies and Japan, thanks to your support, is a world economic powerhouse. Why can't we be as well?" However unrealistic, such statements are said in earnest and should be listened to.
Today, we face three leaders, Donald Trump, Moon Jae-in, and Kim Jong Un who each, for his own reasons, seeks to carve out a new legacy different from his predecessors. Seemingly out of nowhere, an unforeseen electoral victory in the United States and impeachment in South Korea and the death of a leader in North Korea have produced leaders who seem willing to take new risks presenting a unique opportunity, the first in 65 years, to bring about a Korean peninsula both at peace, free of nuclear arms and aligned with the United States.
President Donald Trump began his presidency with the mistaken notions that as a satellite of China, North Korea would bend to China's will and could be pressured through tough economic sanctions to give up its nuclear weapons.
Thanks largely to President Moon's advice, he has come to understand that diplomacy, bolstered by a gradual lifting of sanctions, may better achieve his aims. His actions, not only to instantly agree to a summit with Chairman Kim but to praise him as an honorable leader and even to pledge to rebuild North Korea's economy to a level equivalent to that of South Korea, have broken all precedent.
As stated earlier, Secretary Pompeo's remark that the United States seeks a fundamentally different strategic relationship with North Korea suggests that he is listening, carefully listening, to the North Koreans' deepest concerns.
In Hanoi the other day, Pompeo stated, "In the past, we were opponents on the battlefield. But today, our security relationship is all about cooperation. The fact that we're cooperating and not fighting is proof that when a country decides to create a brighter future for itself alongside the United States, we follow through on American promises.
Then, I have a message for Chairman Kim Jong Un, President Trump believes your country can replicate this path. It's yours if you'll seize the moment."
And as if the words of North Korean officials whom he met a day or two earlier were still ringing in his ears, he said, "When the leaders in Hanoi go to bed at night, that notion of conflict with America is the last thing on their minds."
A final thought, there was a time in Korea about a century ago when young Korean patriots, many of them Christians converted by American missionaries, sought independence from Japanese colonial rule inspired by American notions of freedom, independence, and self-reliance.
They admired Woodrow Wilson for his Fourteen Points about self-determination for all peoples until they found out that it did not apply to Korea. American missionaries who were their role models taught them that personal and national salvation were one. But when the chips were down, did little to help them remove the Japanese yoke.
When the nonviolent March 1st uprising in 1919 for national independence was brutally put down by Japan, some among them, Kim Il Sung included, fled into the hills of Manchuria to take up arms. Others equally patriotic felt it best to operate within the colonial system and seek to reform it from within.
Another group actively collaborated with Japan. That was the beginning of the deep division in Korea that led to the two Koreas we know today.
Next March 1st will mark the centennial of this uprising. President Moon Jae-in has called for North Korea to celebrate it with him as a reminder that both sides at one time fought for national independence. He should be sure to remind North Korea that the United States was a beacon of hope in those days and can still be during a century later. Thank you.
KIMBALL: Thank you. If you could stay there for just a minute, Tony, while we take some questions from the floor.
I mean, first, let me to say thank you very much for outlining that forward-looking vision and practical steps for realizing the–one of the key goals that President Trump and Chairman Kim agreed to in Singapore and we've paid a lot of attention here in Washington to the denuclearization side and I think it's important that we look at the other issues that are part of this complex package.
So, let we invite reporters from the floor to pitch your question to Tony Namkung and if you could just–if you have a question… if you could wait for the microphone to come your way before asking your question.
Anyone has–Tony has answered all your questions about moving forward. Yes. All right.
Mark Fitzpatrick, our future panelist, has a question. So, Mark.
FITZPATRICK: OK. Thanks.
Tony, I was intrigued when you mentioned that you–North Korean officials with whom you’ve dealt suggested at times a security relationship with the United States and I'm just wondering whether this is because–are they thinking they would like to trade partners, the United States for China? Is it because they don't like being under China's power and pressure?
NAMKUNG: Well, you know the expression a shrimp among whales. North Korea–Korea, as a whole, has–for decades and centuries actually been victimized by the potential big power predations of countries like Japan and China and Russia.
The U.S. is in a special category. Since the late 19th century, there's always been an undercurrent of thinking that the United States is distant, they can be a good partner, it can be a good ally. Just for precisely that reason, it doesn't pose an immediate existential threat for the future of the Korean people.
So, yes, I am suggesting that with the emergence of China in the region and in the last generation, that this–the opportunity has come for the United States to not necessarily displace China but to play that kind of facilitative role as peacekeeper on the peninsula, as a harmonizer and stabilizer in the region and so forth.
KIMBALL: All right. Thank you. Any other questions? Otherwise, I have one.
All right. Tony, so, you mentioned in your remarks that President Moon Jae-in has called for progress towards the declaration of the end of the war by some of the key parties.
In practical terms, I mean, what kinds of actions do you think would be necessary in the ongoing diplomacy in order to realize that? There may be additional talks between Secretary of State Pompeo and his North Korean counterparts. There may be additional meetings between the three heads of state in New York or elsewhere by the end of the year. Is that realistically possible?
NAMKUNG: Well, as I suggested at the outset of my talk, the next step really is for North Korea to take. The U.S. has gone way, way beyond it has ever gone in reaching out to North Korea.
This not to detract from all of the steps they have taken, the cessation of testing, the dismantling of the test facilities, the return of the remains and so forth. But the mood has darkened considerably in Washington, D.C. in the last month since Singapore and it's really incumbent on them to make an equally dramatic and unprecedented move on the nuclear issue.
I think that that is the way to get things started. And as far as three-way declarations are concerned by the time of the UNGA, I doubt it very much. South and North Korea having a little bit of trouble in getting together on that issue, it will come I hope by the end of the year but not by September.
KIMBALL: All right. Thank you. I think there's one question here. If you could just identify yourself.
QUESTION: My name is Beenish Pervaiz and I work with NTI, Nuclear Threat Initiative. My question was related to the word denuclearization itself and there has been a lot of talk about how it is a very ambiguous term in terms of what it means to the U.S., to South Korea, North Korea.
NAMKUNG: I'm sorry. What–what means?
QUESTION: The word denuclearization itself …
QUESTION: … and the definition of the word. So, in very concrete terms, do you think that there is a baseline understanding that the three countries could agree upon in terms of what denuclearization would mean and what do you think that would be?
NAMKUNG: I don't think that the parties are anywhere near reaching any kind of consensus on the meaning of denuclearization and probably will not be able to achieve that for some time to come. The only way to think about this that makes sense is that with every passing month, every passing two or three months that there will be something dramatic done on the question of denuclearizing North Korea or the Korean peninsula and that if we build on those steps, one more dramatic each time than the other, than the previous step, that we can move closer and closer to a day when the peninsula will be free of nuclear weapons.
But to expect North Korea today, to give you a timeline, is I think wholly unrealistic. Although, I have to say that I have heard from some North Koreans that the next presidential election may be a good time to make some really serious progress building on some confidence building measures, some steps on denuclearization and then something very dramatic on the eve of the next presidential election, which is the way that North Korea usually conducts business.
KIMBALL: Great. Well, thank you very much.
NAMKUNG: There is a question in the back.
KIMBALL: We have one more. OK.
NAMKUNG: Go ahead.
KIMBALL: Yes, sir? Ma'am? Sir? Very good.
QUESTION: Hi. I'm D. Parvaz with ThinkProgress. A lot of these discussions seems to focus on sort of how the different players will come to the table, but I'm wondering how this might work domestically within North Korea where, for better or for worse–more for worse here, I gather, there's been a lot of sacrifices made to create this nuclear program and maybe getting rid of it might serve to destabilize the leadership there.
How will they negotiate that and how will they sell this to their population as a good thing having for decades sold the necessity of these weapons as an absolute tool of survival?
NAMKUNG: Well, those of us involved in Track II meetings with the North Koreans over the years have heard countless times that if they feel that the threat of an invasion or aggression or whatever has been utterly, totally removed as I said earlier that the leaders in Hanoi go to bed and the last thing on their minds is a conflict with the United States, they will then give up their nuclear weapons at that point.
That's not to say that they may not hold on to a handful of them at some point as a final deterrent against any changes in the future such as anything but Clinton, George W. Bush policy that overturns all the agreements that have been reached. But if we can reduce it to something manageable, I think that that would be a good outcome.
Now, I do not see denuclearization as a threat to the regime, not at all. I see it as the opening of–as President Trump has put it on a number of occasions, a bright and prosperous North Korea, something that all sides in North Korea would welcome.
KIMBALL: All right. Yes, sir?
QUESTION: Check. Thank you. Reporter from Hong Kong Phoenix TV.
I have a question regarding today's news which is “North Korea returns 55 remains of U.S. soldiers to the United States.” I know you were–in 2014 at the negotiation of the three Americans returning home, how would you comment on this–on today's news?
NAMKUNG: Well, shortly following the announcement that they had ceased testing, I think this was sometime in the first month of–the first week of December 2017, they indicated very–they sent very clear signals that they were prepared to engage in three confidence-building measures, the first of which was to return the other three prisoners, the second of which was to return the remains.
At that time, the figure was about 200, I believe that number is still valid and they will see other shipments, other transfers in the period ahead. And the third was to allow Korean-American families with relatives in North Korea to be reunited.
So, clearly, even at that point in time, they were embarked on a path to try to reach an accommodation with the United States.
KIMBALL: All right. Thank you. We'll take a couple more questions.
QUESTION: Hi, this is on behalf of CNN so I'm just going to ask it. It's a similar question to ThinkProgress. I'm just wondering if you could elaborate a little more how Kim Jong Un has indeed made a strategic choice to denuclearize and to what extent and if he really does, to what extent, want to join the international community.
NAMKUNG: Well, this question is always a two-way street. I mean, he will move as fast as the others move. And if the others demand that he move first and unilaterally, then he will not move. So, it's as simple as that.
The saying in Korea is you point a gun at me, I'll point a gun at you. You give me a piece of rice cake and I'll give you a piece of rice cake.
North Korea is always reactive. North Korea never takes the initiative incidentally. So, it waits for you to act and then it reacts.
But normally, the reaction is commensurate with the action and that's the only way to answer that question.
KIMBALL: All right. I think we have one more right here.
QUESTION: Hi, Rebecca Kheel from The Hill. I'm wondering what you make of Secretary Pompeo's disclosure this week that North Korea is still producing fissile material. Does that mean anything? Is it a bad sign? Does it negate any of the confidence-building measures we've seen?
NAMKUNG: Well, the agreement in Singapore, really, doesn't spell out exactly what has been pointed out many times by many people exactly what's involved in the implementation of the agreement. It doesn't come as any surprise to me that they are continuing to add fuel, continuing to build up their fissile material because it's not a subject that has come up in the negotiations up to now.
So, yes, we would like to see them completely cease everything related to the nuclear missile programs. But I don't think that's in the cards. It's all a matter of negotiations.
KIMBALL: All right. We're going to get to get into some of these denuclearization questions in just a few minutes with the next panel.
Let's take one more final question for Tony Namkung. I think there was one more in the rear?
QUESTION: Yes. I just had a question about the general mindset of Korea. Why would they engage in the sort of like self-harm–their GDP is extremely low, so they're not really getting any benefit from the way that they're conducting their behavior. And as you said, if they were to partner with other countries and be more open, they would probably prosper exponentially.
So, what's the real reasoning for sort of inflicting these wounds on themselves? They always go forward and go back. It seems like they're kind of repeating a pattern that's been repeated throughout history, at least, in the onset of it. So, what's the benefit that they think they're receiving from?
NAMKUNG: I don't know that they think there's any benefit to behaving or acting that way. But so long as the security issue is not resolved, nothing else can move forward. It's really as simple as that.
KIMBALL: All right. One more question, just identify yourself, please.
QUESTION: Sure. Al Jazeera English.
Question for you. You said that the skies were darkening in Washington. What did you mean by that? And you also said the North needs to do a significant move, take a significant move? What does that look like? What are you looking for?
NAMKUNG: Well, it's been long been my practice not to suggest actual moves for–on the part of the negotiators. They’ll have to figure out what would a significant and dramatic move might look like.
But I believe that the mood has darkened and it's darkened largely because the expectations were so high from the very beginning, that we were about to march into the sunset together. And that North Korea would denuclearize within a year or something.
The problem that we’re seeing now is that these expectations were much too high and we're seeing the fallout from that.
KIMBALL: All right. Well, very good.
Well, thank you, Tony, very much …
KIMBALL: … for being with us.
NAMKUNG: Thank you very much.
KIMBALL: All right. Thank you.
And the next panel will address mainly the questions that are now starting to come up about denuclearization, the sequencing, and the key steps and what is a realistic expectation about the pace for denuclearization if there is, as Tony Namkung underscored, the kind of progress on the steps for the peace regime that it appears that President Trump and Kim Jong Un have agreed to try to pursue.
So, to address those questions, we have–we're honored to have with us Mark Fitzpatrick who is the Executive Director of the IISS-Americas and Head of the Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Policy Program at IISS. And I would just also note that he has served in the State Department in the past, for 26 years, including as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation. Mark is a leading nonproliferation expert in the field.
And then also, with us here today is our own Director for Nonproliferation Policy, Kelsey Davenport, who is our lead on North Korea and Iran nuclear nonproliferation challenges.
And so, the two of them are going to be talking about the steps and the pace and the challenges of the denuclearization process and then we'll take your questions for them.
So, Mark, take it away.
FITZPATRICK: Thanks very much to Daryl for having me. Thank you, all.
I was kind of afraid of the way those questions were going, all the air would have been sucked out of the room and I won't have anything more to say.
But let me start, though, by saying that I'm very, very pleased with the confidence-building measures that North Korea did follow through on the return of the remains. I was involved in the first return of U.S. remains when I was at the State Department. That was 28 years ago, so it's good to see that process continuing.
But I was going to talk about what we–what is needed, what are the steps for denuclearization. And my very first point is one that Tony just pricked. It took all the air out of it because my first point was the first thing you need to do is define what you mean by denuclearization.
Before North Korea can actually begin to declare things, you got to agree on what is it–what's the problem set? What are they going to declare? And then, I think, Tony very realistically said we're a long way, he said, from getting agreement on what it means the definition and it's is not to happen for some time.
But still, I'm going to say, you need to understand, agree, what it is that North Korea is going to denuclearize. And I thought it was interesting in Secretary Pompeo's hearing on Wednesday, which Kelsey kindly shared her notes with me, that the secretary said–he insisted that North Korea understands the U.S. definition of denuclearization and that North Korea agreed to denuclearize fully.
So, they understand what the United States means. But it's not written down anywhere and everybody that’s ever negotiated with North Korea knows you've got to write these things down or they don't have any weight.
The last time we did this, 2012, the Leap Day deal, I was really excited about it and it didn't write down that the moratorium on long-range testing included space launches. So, North Korea did a space launch and I–so they said, we told you that was a violation. We told you. You understood.
And North Korea said, “it's not written down.” So, you've got to write these things down.
And the fact that we're a long way from writing it down is a little discouraging.
So, one answer… what does denuclearization mean? Some people point to the 1992 denuclearization agreement between North and South in which both sides, North and South agree–North and South Korea agreed that they would not test manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy, or use nuclear weapons nor would they possess plutonium reprocessing or uranium enrichment facilities and that they would use nuclear energy solely for peaceful purposes.
So, that was the denuclearization agreement of 1992. And I was thinking about that this morning. Is that denuclearization or is it non-nuclearization?
Because they didn’t have nuclear weapons they had to get rid of. They didn’t have uranium enrichment that they had to dismantle. They just were saying what they wouldn't do.
So, I think it was sort of a–it was the equivalent of a nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty for the Korean peninsula. Now, we're in a much different situation, of course, because North Korea has nuclear weapons. They have enrichment. They have plutonium reprocessing.
So, now, we really do need a denuclearization definition and agreement to take these things that they have and get rid of them, starting off with the things they produced, the nuclear weapons which might be up to 60 according to the Defense Intelligence Agency. The stockpile of highly and–I'm sorry–stockpile of–let's start off with plutonium because that’s easier. We can kind of figure out how much plutonium they’ve been able to produce between 33 and 50 kg, at least there's a–you know how long the reactor was running to produce it.
And then, of course, the highly enriched uranium. Anybody's estimate, but Sig Hecker from Stanford suggests maybe 250-500 kg.
And then there's the stockpile of low-enriched uranium. You got to get rid of the stockpile of tritium and lithium-6.
OK. Then you also get rid of the ability to produce more of all that. So, obviously, North Korea would have to eliminate the plutonium production reactor at Yongbyon, also the IR 2000 reactor that produced plutonium for the weapons program, the uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon that has–it's been known.
And then the one that is mooted at Chollima, sometimes called Kangson, the one that was in the press earlier this month. Everybody looking at this knows that North Korea had to have a second enrichment plant. Now, it's in the open sources of where that is.
So, North Korea would have to get rid of that one and any other facilities. They probably had at least one more and centrifuge production facilities and anything else associated with the weapons program.
Now, to be decided is whether North Korea would have to get rid of all nuclear facilities. I mean, they have some–they have some presumably that maybe are only for civilian purposes, the experimental light-water reactor, maybe they could keep that one. That’s a point of negotiation.
I think there's a case could be made for keeping it if that would be a quid pro quo for getting them to get rid of all the other stuff.
OK. So, that’s in nuclear. Then denuclearization has to also include demissilization. They have to include the missiles as well.
And so, they got to get rid of the threatening missiles. And the question here is do they have to get rid of just the ones that threaten the United States or how about the ones that threaten Japan and South Korea?
And Japan has made very clear its point that it has to be all of them and…that seems a pretty reasonable proposition that anything that could deliver nuclear weapon should be removed and we can provide some technical expertise and what that means. That’s a lot of missiles. You get rid of the engines, the motors, the airframes, the test facilities, and so forth.
Then the next question. OK. Beyond the missile–the nuclear and the missile, what about the other WMD? Secretary Pompeo, according to Kelsey's notes, he said that it includes–denuclearization includes chemical weapons and biological weapons as well which is pretty logical.
Now, the thing about this is that North Korea has never admitted to having chemical weapons or biological weapons but everybody–everybody who know–who's in this business assumes that they have chemical weapons. Defectors have said so and you can point to production facilities.
So, it's assumed that they have chemical weapons. And, well, actually they used them, so they do have them. They used it to assassinate Kim Jong Nam in Kuala Lumpur.
Biological weapons, I think, is a big question mark here. I think nobody should just assume that they have biological weapons. They probably have a biological weapons defense program but, anyway, they'll have to come clean about any that they do have.
They have joined the Biological Weapons Convention but there's no verification for that. They haven't joined the Chemical Weapons Convention. They’d have to do that and that does have a verification.
Now, the big question, will North Korea have to make a full accounting of everything they have ever produced or any diagrams they've ever compiled? If they have an atomic archive in some warehouse, would they have to turn that over? And if they didn’t turn it over, would it–would the discovery of any past documents mean that North Korea was violating the whatever agreement?
I just came back from an event elsewhere in town about the Iran deal and the argument being made there was, yes, Iran is in violation because it had these documents. So, I think it's a question about historical records. But all the procurement, would they have to come clean about all that?
That’s a big step. I'm not sure they're going to be willing to do that.
OK. I shouldn’t talk for too much longer here but I'll just say, a big question is… Tony was so pragmatic and realistic that you're not going to get them to do all this right up front. So, at least stopping production while talks continue, that's–and they are stopping the testing of nuclear weapons and the testing of missiles, but they haven't said what missiles they're stopping the testing of. Does this moratorium, it should include all missiles–all ballistic missiles, I would say.
One question you might ask is could they be allowed to have the space launches that killed the 2012 Leap Day Deal? In my institute, we've just made a case that, yes, yes, they could. The space launches can be differentiated from ballistic missiles. It would still require a lot of technical limitations, though.
Last couple of points I'll make is that any declaration that North Korea makes is not going to be complete. And, I mean, because no country's declarations are complete. Even countries in very good standing with the NPT, when they make the declaration, they always forget things.
So, it's an iterative process and we have to not play a gotcha game with North Korea. And we have to help them–the United States will have to help them to explain what they will need to declare. It's going to be – it’d have to be a cooperative process.
Last point. Verification, I would argue, has to be in conjunction with dismantling. So, the point was made that North Korea has dismantled something, the nuclear test site, the Sohae rocket engine test. But they did–they did it without any verification.
So, there's no confidence that what they declared that they destroyed, they actually destroyed it completely or irreversibly or the collapse of the tunnels at the test site, how far in did the tunnels collapse? Without verification, it really undermines the confidence-building nature of the action and it impedes future verification because it destroys forensic evidence.
So, even though North Korea may continue to destroy things or say they're destroying things and this would–we could see this is some evidence of good faith, I would argue as a nonproliferation wonk that it's not really that meaningful unless it's verified. I'll stop there.
KIMBALL: All right. Thank you, Mark.
It is an ambitious set of tasks you just outlined and I want to turn to Kelsey for elaborations of some those issues and also the question of the process by which this might be pursued by the USG and others.
DAVENPORT: Great. Well, thank you, Daryl, and thanks to all of you for coming today.
I think Mark did an excellent job talking about what's critical in terms of getting the substance of denuclearization right and I want to focus now a little bit on the process and the role of Congress.
And these are areas that don't necessarily generate a lot of headlines, but I think it's critical that we have a more in-depth and robust discussion about both of these areas because we don't just need diplomacy with North Korea, we need smart and effective diplomacy. And a lot of that comes down to getting the process right and if we look at what's been going on with the Trump administration right now, I think there are a number of ways where we could strengthen and refine that process to make for more effective diplomacy.
So, first on the process side, I want to make four and a half points and you'll see why I say four and a half in just a minute. But the first point is I think the United States really needs to think about appointing a special envoy or clarifying who in the State Department is actually leading these negotiations.
The Singapore Summit declaration tasked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with actually leading the U.S. talks. And symbolically, I certainly think that that is very important, that the head of the State Department is involved in this process.
But when you have the State Department's chief diplomat flying off to Pyongyang, that I think raises some unrealistic expectations that every time there's a meeting with the Secretary of State, that there is going to be some announcement or there are going to be some substantive results. And diplomacy just doesn’t work that way, particularly when we have a process that's going to be this complex and time-consuming as a denuclearization agreement with North Korea.
So, I would encourage the State Department to think more about how the Obama administration pursued the Iran talks. You had the Undersecretary of State for political and military affairs, Wendy Sherman, sort of leading the day-to-day negotiations and Secretary Kerry sort of coming in when necessary, when you needed that extra political impetus to make some of those bigger decisions or when there actually was an announcement.
So, related to that question of a special envoy, my second point on process is on the importance of creating working groups. And again, it's not clear if this is something that the State Department has actually taken in hand. But when you look at the different elements of the Singapore declaration and when you look at the different elements that Mark laid out that denuclearization is going to constitute, when you look at the question of sanctions relief, these are very different baskets that are all going to need to be coordinated but also require some very specialized work.
So, looking at the creation of working groups, again, just a simple step that could be taken on process that I think would be effective.
The third sort of process point is sort of a mix between process and substance. And again, this harkens back a little bit to sort of what Mark was saying about the importance of actually writing down a definition because we have seen North Korea exploit ambiguity before and that’s to really think about some type of dispute resolution mechanism.
Because even when–if we get to the point where we have these definitions written down or as Mark said, we get to the point where there is a declaration, I think there is going to be sometimes deliberate obfuscation on the part of North Korea or there are just going to be things that are missed, elements that come down the road, and this isn't just on North Korea, this is also on the U.S. delivering on whatever it commits to as part of this process.
And establishing a dispute resolution mechanism earlier, I think, can be critical for finding ways to sort of work through these problems as they arise in a way that it does not actually sort of disrupt the substance and the progress that these negotiations are and does not–does not put up any roadblocks towards getting towards the ultimate goal of these negotiations.
The fourth point I would make on process would appear to be, I think, somewhat self-evident but it's not something that's happening and I think it is quite–it is quite critical to rectify. And that’s the importance of regular briefings by the administration for Congress.
Secretary of State Pompeo testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week and it was the first time, I quote, "the first time," that the Senate had heard from the State Department after the Singapore Summit, nearly 2 months ago, and this is the first time that key members of Congress who work on U.S. foreign policy are getting a readout about what occurred sort of at that meeting.
And this is important because when Congress is not read in, when they are not involved, I think they we've seen in the foreign policy space they tend to take these sort of matters into their own hands. And I want to get into that a little bit more in my discussion of Congress.
But some of the roadblocks that Congress might put up, some of the Congressional attempts to sort of dictate the results of this process in a way that could really hamper the Trump administration could be rectified if there are regular briefings.
And my sort of point five on that–on that fourth point is that these–this should not just come from the U.S. government. And one area where I think there is an interest in sort of more knowledge, more understanding is the position of the South Korean government and what the South Korean government wants to see come out of these negotiations, what their priorities are, and what their concerns are.
Already we saw after the Singapore Summit several members of Congress, speak out against the suspension of U.S.-South Korean joint exercises and there were some proposals floated for legislation that would prevent the United States from actually suspending those exercises.
So, again, this is a barrier that Congress considered putting up that could very easily have been relegated if it was more clear that both sides were onboard with the suspension and did not think that that would address U.S. military readiness. Relatedly, just this week in the National Defense Authorization Act, members of Congress and House of Representatives agreed on legislation that would prevent a drawdown of U.S. troops on the Korean peninsula without congressional approval.
Again, this really could hamper us down the road and some of this, I think, could be easily mitigated if there was more clarity for Congress as to the administration’s, scope of the negotiations, their objectives, and what elements the South Korean government is supportive of or has concerns about.
So, for the second part of my remarks, I just want to say a little bit about Congress. And the U.S. Congress, I think, is often overlooked in terms of the role that they can play sort of in North Korean diplomacy.
And I think right now, Congress, like the American people writ large, are generally inclined to support talks but they are somewhat suspicious of the Trump Administration's ability to actually carry out a successful negotiation. And they are frustrated over the lack of knowledge that they’ve received about the process to date.
And I think where that could–sort of confluence of events could lead us is Congress putting up some roadblocks that hinder the negotiations and cause problems both immediately or set the United States up to have to overcome roadblocks in the future.
So, just three quick areas I want to address. First, I hope this would also be self-evident, but if you look at the history of the U.S. Congress, it's certainly not, and that is now is not the time for new sanctions. I think we have, particularly with this Congress, sort of a very pro-sanctions approach and the general confusion that leads many members of Congress to the conclusion that sanctions are strategy.
Sanctions are not strategies. Sanctions are a tool that can be used to implement a strategy. But simply continuing to ratchet up sanctions now when North Korea has–appears interested in negotiations, is not going to get North Korea to capitulate.
So, where the focus really should be on the sanction side right now for the U.S. Congress is continued enforcement. And I do think there is a reason to be concerned that sanctions pressure on North Korea is slipping.
There are a number of indicators that we can see just from the truck movement across the Chinese-North Korean border. In the last few weeks, that’s returned to some of the levels we saw sort of pre-2018.
Tourism, again, is increasing in North Korea. There are other indicators, like exchange rates and gas costs, that I think are indicative of a slowing in the implementation and enforcement of sanctions.
And some of this is due to the rhetoric of President Trump. When the U.S. president says the North Korean threat is over, when the U.S. president says we don’t need to engage in maximum pressure, most of us in this room I'm sure all know that the threat is not over, and that we do still need sanctions pressure.
But his messages, his words, the words of the U.S. president, do have resonance in other parts of the world. And when you're talking to the group that may be trying to implement sanctions and conduct some of the controls and the checks on goods passing through a port in Indonesia that may have North Korean origin and they hear the President of the United States saying there is no threat, I think you have just then an erosion of sanctions because people just don't think they need to actually implement the U.S. and the UN measures any longer.
So, Congress, I think can play a very constructive role in encouraging better sanctions enforcement and encouraging that the elements of the U.S. government that work on sanctions enforcement are fully funded and continuing sort of the critical outreach that helps with enforcement and compliance.
The second congressional space, it has to do with oversight. And here, I think, given President Trump's track record, there is reason to be concerned that he may accept a deal that is not strong from a denuclearization perspective.
So, Congress can play a role in exercising oversight, in setting good benchmarks for a deal, but they have to walk a very fine line between articulating sort of solid goals and objectives and boxing the president in. And sort of on this latter area, boxing the president in and setting unrealistic expectations, I would draw attention to a letter that 10 Democratic senators sent to the Trump Administration in June that I think set some very unrealistic expectations.
They talked about the need for anytime-anywhere inspections. I don't think that that's realistic. They talked about needing to get rid of all North Korean ballistic missiles. Again, that may not be necessary.
But setting, I think, unrealistic expectations that a good deal does not need to meet, I think can raise this–this disconnect between what Congress expects and what can actually be delivered. But Congress can and should, like I said, play a role in exercising oversight and setting some realistic expectations.
So, finally, just one last point on Congress, and again, this is a place where I think Congress should be playing more of a role and it's not, and that’s thinking proactively about the monitoring and verification mechanisms that are going to be necessary to actually implement any sort of deal with North Korea.
And I think, Mark rightly highlighted the importance of verification and just how critical it's going to be to get that component right. And we have a lot of existing tools available to implement some of the monitoring and verification. Certainly, what exists at the International Atomic Energy Agency for fuel cycle monitoring, a lot of that is very robust.
But when we talk about actually verifiably dismantling warheads, when we talk about looking at North Korea's uranium enrichment and determining if what they’ve actually produced equals what they say they've produced, some of the technology and the processes are not there yet.
So, Congress directing greater investment towards these areas, encouraging the U.S. national labs to take on some of these challenges to a more robust extent, looking at the capabilities of international organizations like the International Atomic Energy Agency, bumping up funding there when necessary, this is a role that I think Congress can and must play and it has the added of not going to waste.
I mean, if our negotiations with North Korea don't get to the point where we get–where we–where we actually need to apply these monitoring and verification mechanisms, the fact that we've done the research that we've developed the processes, this can still be applied elsewhere.
So, this is critical research on verification technology and in a process that the United States needs be doing anyway for arms control writ large.
So, I will stop there. I will look forward to your questions. Although, I plan to send any hard ones to Mark.
KIMBALL: All right. Thank you, Kelsey. Thank you, Mark.
We have ample time for questions from the audience. If you just identify yourself and wait for the microphone to come your way, that would be great.
And while we're waiting for those hands to come up, I just wanted to ask–we can take one here–but I wanted to ask Mark to elaborate slightly more on what you mean by the need to, as a priority step, of putting a halt or a freeze on North Korea's activities. What beyond the nuclear test halt and ballistic missile halt would be ideal and how do we make sure that it holds?
FITZPATRICK: So, I see this halt as equivalent to a ceasefire when parties have been in a conflict. And you have–you call a ceasefire, stop firing at each other or in the case of the North Korean case, stop adding to the problem.
So, they’ve stopped testing of missiles since last November and nuclear weapons tests as well, that's just a very initial thing, though. It needs two other forms of halting. They really need to halt the production of additional fissile material. No more plutonium, no more highly-enriched uranium.
Now, that’s not something that's easy to verify through national technical means. I mean, you can–you can see if the reactor is not operating.
So, you'd need some–it'd be good to have some verification, then you get into kind of a sticky territory. But at least, that’s something I'm sure the United States would be asking for, any party would be asking for, no more fissile material production.
And then no more development of more kinds of delivery systems. The missile development should really cease. Now, the fact that North Korea stopped the Sohae testing site, that’s–stopped, they apparently dismantled, that’s a good thing.
But they should also stop development of the submarine-launched ballistic missile, for example. Those should be important confidence-building steps.
And then it's not all going to be unilateral. The United States is going to have to also halt something, I think, if it's going to be anything that's going to really last. And that means no more sanctions. That seems to be the reasonable quid pro quo.
And as a de facto matter …
KIMBALL: No more sanctions, period, or no more new …
FITZPATRICK: No more new sanctions. Yes.
FITZPATRICK: I mean, the sanctions are already there, they will continue to be applied and additional entities may be added to a blacklist, but that's no new forms of sanctions.
But as a de facto matter, that's already happening because there aren’t going to be any new United Nations sanctions and I suspect there won't be any new forms of U.S. sanctions either because President Trump will want diplomacy to succeed.
KIMBALL: All right. Thanks for that elaboration. I think we have a question here.
QUESTION: Is this on? OK. This question is for Ms. Davenport.
You mentioned some of the steps and strategies the Obama administration had employed in dealing with Iran. Now, obviously, that is not what this administration is interested in doing in terms of copying any of those steps. So–and so much so that we saw Secretary Pompeo–was that yesterday? It seems like a million years ago, it's a day before yesterday–before Senate, trying to explain what was policy and what were just statements that the president was making or that he himself was making on Twitter or in person because it seems like even that’s confused, what is policy and what is just things being said off the cuff.
So, realizing, of course, that Iran and North Korea are different and that they're–well, they're entirely different cases. What's common–the common goal is going to be requiring any kind of trust moving forward in either renegotiating the Iran deal or negotiating any kind of deal with North Korea.
The administration, of course, can compartmentalize Iran is Iran, North Korea is North Korea, but North Korea will certainly be looking at how Iran's been treated.
So, given the lack of things that are in writing with North Korea and all the things that were in writing with Iran, how can this process move forward with the kind of sort of trust assurances and progress that needs to be made in order for denuclearization however you define it to happen?
Sorry, that was a very long question.
DAVENPORT: No, it's a very good question. And I certainly think that the United States does face a credibility deficit under the Trump administration and it's not just for the Iran deal. It's for pulling out of the Paris climate accord, it's for comments made in relationship to NATO, Trump's actions at the G7 summit.
So, and certainly, there is reason to be concerned about the U.S. follow through on any agreement. And I think, given how the Iran deal situation has turned out with the United States withdrawing from the deal, violating the agreement by reimposing sanctions for no legitimate reason, and effectively calling into question the basis of what Iran wanted out of the deal, sanctions relief, I think we might see North Korea try to demand more upfront and more that's actually tangible in terms of what the results they get immediately.
So, that may sort of play into the North Korean calculus. I think relatedly, the United States has also damaged its credibility with allies and other partners in the region when it comes to cooperating with tools that the United States employs like extraterritorial sanctions.
A lot of the reason that Iran was pushed to the negotiating table was due to, I think, some very smart and effective sanctions diplomacy that was employed by the Obama administration, getting states on board even when it was against their national economic interest to employ some of these measures. And by sort of violating and reimposing without good reason, I think that has called into question the willingness of some of these critically important states like China to continue to comply and actually abide by some of these U.S. extraterritorial sanctions.
So, I definitely think that there is a trust deficit, but I don't think that it's insurmountable. And certainly, the fact that Pompeo went back to Pyongyang after the Singapore Summit, the fact that North Korea followed through on delivering the POW remains, I think all of these small steps are critical in terms of sort of creating that culture of accountability for both sides.
KIMBALL: All right. Other questions? Yes, sir, in the back.
QUESTION: Edward Ifft, Stanford University.
This word, denuclearization, bothers me a lot. I think it's a very poor word to use, although I guess we are stuck with it. And the term complete denuclearization, of course, is even worse.
South Korea gets a third of its electricity from nuclear reactors. Past agreements have not only allowed the North to have civilian reactors, but we've agreed to help them with that. I don't think anyone's proposing eliminating nuclear medicine. It seems to me, what we're doing, and why don’t we just say this, we're trying to create a nuclear-weapons-free zone on the Korean peninsula.
There are five of those in the world. We know how to do that. Ideally, it will be a WMD free zone, and to that, we can add constraints on fissile materials and ballistic missiles.
The other thing that bothers me is a lot of people in this town are saying that this whole process must begin with North Korea making a complete declaration of all its nuclear assets and where they are. That would be wonderful if we could get that. That would mean that North Korea would tell us where to drop the bombs and where to send the Marines before they have any assurance of anything.
I mean, an interesting model would be the START process. The START process did not begin with a massive exchange of data, it ended with a massive exchange of data. We labored for a long time to agree on what data would be exchanged, that document was over 100 pages long.
KIMBALL: So, Ed, do you want to leave the panelists with a question?
QUESTION: Right. At the very end of the process, we filled in the blanks. So, those are just two frustrations I have with the dialogue I hear. What do you think? Thank you.
KIMBALL: All right. So, the question is how do we address Ed Ifft's frustrations on the word denuclearization and what it means and the denuclearization ask.
So, perhaps either or both of you want to take on those questions. I mean, I think, Mark, you talked about denuclearization concept and the January 1992 North-South denuclearization agreement as a basis.
KIMBALL: It's a starting point. And I think that–I think that provides a good starting definition to move forward which does allow for nuclear medicine, nuclear power, but not nuclear-weapons-related activities or nuclear weapons.
FITZPATRICK: Yes. I don’t read too much about somebody thinking that all nuclear medicine has to go-- but I think the problem with it, the denuclearization term, is that it focuses on nuclearization when it has to include chemical weapons and missile delivery systems.
So–and because of the way that North Korea only abides by the letter of agreements, it could use that word denuclearization to argue that they don't have to address those other forms of so-called weapons of mass destruction.
So, I kind of like your idea, Ed, and I was just jotting it down, a Korean peninsula WMD-free zone, it doesn't have any vowels, so it's kind of hard to make into a snappy acronym. But let's work on that.
DAVENPORT: Could I just add one point, Daryl, and I think this is somewhat tangentially related to your question, Ed, but in the discussion of denuclearization, we often focus on what–how we define that vis-à-vis sort of the North Korean programs. But I think it's also critical to remember that when North Korea talks about denuclearization and I'm thinking, I think, specifically of a statement made in, I believe, it was July of 2015 or 2016, they constituted denuclearization as also ensuring that South Korea is free of nuclear weapons.
And of course, the United States removed its tactical nuclear weapons from South Korea in the early '90s. But part of these negotiations, again, sort of far down the road, might be allowing North Korea to have some limited access to these areas so that they are more assured as well that there are no nuclear weapons sort of stationed on the peninsula.
So, I think, it does have to go both ways and I also like your idea of conceiving this as a zone issue and not just a denuclearization issue.
KIMBALL: And let me just address your concern and point about the difficulty of persuading North Korea to provide a full and complete declaration of its nuclear missile programs.
I mean, I agree that that is a big ask. Mark mentioned that. That is a big ask.
And I think it's important to note that the September 2005 denuclearization agreement between the United States and North Korea through the Six-Party process foundered in 2006–in 2007 over a number of issues including the failure of the North Koreans to eventually deliver as promised the declaration.
So, this is a big ask. And if this is what Secretary Pompeo has been pushing for in this first round of talks that were conducted in Pyongyang following the Singapore Summit, it's not surprising that the North Koreans may have balked about that.
If I were heading up the negotiations, that would not be the first thing I would be asking for. It would be, I think, as Mark pointed out the pushing the North Koreans to solidify and to expand upon their halt to nuclear testing and ballistic missile testing with a halt on ballistic missile production and fissile material production because that provides the time for the U.S. and North Korea to pursue these negotiations on developing a peace regime and moving towards actual dismantling, verifiable dismantling.
So, I would agree that the declaration would come at a mid to a later phase in this process. So, that's an important question that the U.S. side needs to consider as it develops its strategy on this process.
So, I think we had another question upfront. If you just identify yourself and then we got one more in the back. Yes, sir? And here's the microphone.
QUESTION: My name is John Merrill and I'm currently at George Washington University since U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS was closed down by withdrawal of South Korean government funding.
My question is directed–first question is directed at Mark. Mark, you seem to have a problem with missiles, but you don't have any problem with air forces. So, what are you going to do about asymmetries between the military capabilities of the two sides?
South Korea has advanced fighter jets, our latest stuff. They have TARS ground attack systems from Germany. So, North Korea should give up its missiles and is someone going to provide them with an Air Force? Who would you suggest do that? That’s the first question.
KIMBALL: All right. Let's go with the first question, Mark.
FITZPATRICK: Yes. What I suggest is that the delivery system for nuclear weapons be a part of the list of things that should be eliminated. So, if there are missiles in North Korea that are not nuclear capable, I think we could put them in one category to not address immediately in this–in this problem set.
But almost all of their Scud derived, and certainly, the No-Dong systems are nuclear–for the purpose of delivering nuclear weapons. So, you get rid of them. You deal with the other conventional weapons through the peace process that Tony was talking about and there can be reciprocal steps there.
FITZPATRICK: Well, I think–I don’t–I understand your point here about reciprocity and all that, but as a realistic proposition, the United States and South Korea are not going to invade North Korea but the opposite has been the case. So, I can see from a North Korean perspective, they would say, well, we can't give up all our defenses.
But what are those–what are their missiles really for? They're for nuclear weapons delivery. So, in a denuclearization or a WMD-free zone, you got to deal with it.
KIMBALL: All right. The second question is a different question?
QUESTION: Yes. We also had some discussion of chemical and biological weapons. I wondered if I could maybe ask both of you what do you think of the global funds cutting off–planned cutting off of tuberculosis drugs to North Korea? Isn't that tantamount to weaponization of medicine or am I missing something? There’ve been a number of press reports about this in the last month.
KIMBALL: All right. Could one or two of you want to just address that or not?
FITZPATRICK: Yes, I mean, I agree with the intent of the question is that there are things that happen because of as a result of sanctions that are deleterious to North Korean health and we ought to think about that. I mean, that’s–I think I would agree with that spirit of that.
But to put that in the same category as the purposeful development of chemical weapons or if North Korea is purposely developing biological weapons, I just–I don't–I wouldn't draw any moral equivalence there and the outbreak of tuberculosis. There's no intention on the part of U.S. government or South Korean government to promote tuberculosis in North Korea.
QUESTION: Drugs are going to end.
FITZPATRICK: Well …
KIMBALL: I don’t think there's any disagreement from this panel about the importance of delivering humanitarian aid to the North, but I think what Mark is saying is that it's a separate question from eliminating–trying to eliminate WMDs from North Korea and South Korea.
I would just note on–you want to address this …
DAVENPORT: I just want to add an additional point that I–it made me think of this, this question also of sanctions enforcement. And I think when we talk about Congress doing a better job, encouraging sanctions and enforcement and implementation, that that isn't just the penalization element of sanctions violation where frequently all of the focus is, but also ensuring that the channels that are set up and maintained for some of the humanitarian aid to also facilitate humanitarian organizations ability to access North Korea, enforcement of those provisions is also very poor.
There is a lot of misunderstanding and that’s another area where, I think, that Congress, in particular, could kind of direct more attention and resources to ensure that when we apply pressure, we're not cutting off those types of critical resources.
KIMBALL: All right. Question in the back, please?
QUESTION: Thanks. I'm with National Security Action. I had a question about the controversial sticking point of the definition of denuclearization.
This week, again, in that Pompeo hearing at SFRC, Senator Gardner asked him about the different ways that Pompeo has referred to CVID or denuclearization whether that’s on the peninsula or just in North Korea. So, I'm curious if you think that the way the U.S. government refers to CVID or some other variation of the term matters. Does it matter for domestic politics in South Korea or how the negotiations proceed or is there a more productive way for the government to be referring to denuclearization of things like the hearing this past week? Thanks.
KIMBALL: All right. Good question.
FITZPATRICK: I don’t–you want to go first this time?
DAVENPORT: Sure. Sure. So, I saw the hearing and I appreciated that Senator Gardner's point, trying to kind of nail down what exactly the administration means by denuclearization.
Because, as referenced, Secretary of State Pompeo has used a lot of different definitions. He came under flak for the Singapore declaration not containing the word verifiable when just before the Singapore declaration, he emphasized the importance of verifiable.
And in my mind, the exact term that's used is less important than a clear understanding of the definition and a consistent articulation of the term and the definition. Typically, in the U.S. policy, Complete Verifiable Irreversible Dismantlement, CVID, has been what's been employed.
But, I mean, we have to be honest. I mean, irreversible? Do we really think we're at the point where we can get an agreement with North Korea that’s irreversible? I mean, you can’t eliminate the knowledge. I mean, there are just certain elements that you can't walk back. You can't put the genie back in the bottle.
So, if–and if North Korea sort of objects to that term but is willing to agree to something that’s complete verifiable denuclearization, so whatever the term is, I think, is less important than ensuring consistency in how it's defined and then ensuring kind of that consistent use.
But the mixed messaging of the Trump administration on the North Korea negotiations, I think, certainly has been a problem and is an area where kind of more clarity and consistency would be useful.
KIMBALL: And the only thing I would just add on this is I agree with Kelsey but the fact that Secretary Pompeo has–and the administration has used different terms, it's symptomatic of the improvisational approach of the Trump Administration for the past year plus towards North Korea and it would be, I think, reassuring if at the very least, the secretary of state would use the same terminology to address the goal that the United States is pursuing.
And as Mark said, ideally, if the two sides could actually write down in simple clear terms what denuclearization covers so there's no misunderstanding down the road.
Other questions? Yes? Go ahead, please, just identify yourself.
Question: Thank you. Thank you very much for a great discussion. My name is Koji Sonoda for The Asahi Shimbun and my question is declaration of end of Korean War.
And actually, it seems to me that DPRK is demanding before its denuclearization–demanding the declaration of end of Korean War before its denuclearization. But actually, I believe if the U.S. accepts the demand, the U.S. will lose important leverage to denuclearization. So, I was wondering if the U.S. should accept North Korea's demand to some extent or just to focus on the denuclearization? This is my question.
KIMBALL: All right. Thank you.
I have some thoughts on that, but Kelsey, Mark, you want to …
DAVENPORT: Sure. So, one thing that I think that the Trump administration has rightly acknowledged is that denuclearization and progress on peace and security on the Korean peninsula need to go hand-in-hand and that there needs to be kind of reciprocity between these steps.
So, I think, that figuring out kind of when to declare a declaration on the Korean War and how that fits into that process, what the reciprocal steps on the nuclear side might be is important.
But I think, we have kind of declaring an end to the Korean War and then we have this idea of perhaps negotiating a treaty on it. So, I don’t think that declaring an end gives up all of the leverage that the United States has in that space immediately. But again, I do think it's important to kind of calibrate it kind of vis-à-vis commitments and steps on the nuclear side.
KIMBALL: Well, I think at the heart of your question is one of the fundamental points that we're trying to make here which is that, as Kelsey said, there needs to be an action-for-action process. And given that Secretary Pompeo just went to Pyongyang, each side was apparently in those talks, they were emphasizing the immense value of the steps that they’ve already taken and were demanding more from the other side. And as a result, they went away from those discussions, both of them somewhat disappointed.
I think that that underscores the fact that both North Korea and the United States are going to have to take some additional bold steps in the direction that the Singapore communiqué suggests.
So, I think President Moon Jae-in's call for work to achieve a declaration, a political declaration regarding the end of the Korean War by the end of 2018 is a good goal. Similarly, as Tony Namkung underscored and I think we're underscoring here when we're talking about denuclearization steps in North Korea, it needs to take some additional demonstrable concrete steps towards the denuclearization goal.
The closure of the Punggye-ri test site tunnels is good but it's not enough. The halt to ballistic missile testing is good but it's not enough.
North Korea, I think, from a nonproliferation standpoint, and this is part of Mark's remarks, needs to take the additional step of halting fissile material production. They could do that very soon and we could remotely verify a lot of that with national technical means, though there might be some activities and unknown enrichment facilities that we're not absolutely sure of. That would be an important dramatic step. That would move along, I think, the peace process.
So, I think both sides need to be thinking more creatively. Both sides need to not be afraid to take additional steps. Otherwise, this process is going to bog down.
Other questions from the audience? We'll go in the back there and then we'll come up front.
QUESTION: Hi. I'm Erin Dunne with the Washington Examiner. And this question is probably for Kelsey.
Do you see partisan politics impeding Congress from taking some of the steps that you outlined? And if so, do you see any possibility of overcoming that partisan divide?
DAVENPORT: It's actually interesting in looking at the North Korea sort of problem set. And we now see, actually, both Republicans and Democrats supportive of the diplomatic process. Where I think there are differences is in how critical they are of the steps that Trump has taken to date and what they want to see going forward.
And this was, I think, quite evident, this kind of shared frustration and the lack of information at the SFRC hearing this week. I think both sides were looking for more clarity about what happened at the summit, sort of what constitutes denuclearization.
And when it comes to certain elements of foreign policy, particularly in the sanctions space, a lot of moves there, actually, typically have been bipartisan and it's one area again, why I raise this concern about now not being the time to press for new sanctions is because when Congress sort of faces foreign provocations, typically, you get a bipartisan response to push for additional sanctions and this is–this is Iran, this is North Korea, this is Russia, to some extent.
So, I think that there is a way to overcome that bipartisanship or, sorry, the partisanship that frequently characterizes politics today just because there is a shared agreement that North Korea constitutes a threat that needs to be addressed, that diplomacy is kind of the best way to do it, and that Congress wants to be more engaged, they want to have a clear picture of what's going on, and they want to ensure that there is a good agreement.
KIMBALL: All right. I think we're going to have time for one more question before we adjourn. Right here, please.
QUESTION: Hi. My name is Grace Kong, I'm an international law attorney and former State Department and my question has to do with this concept of halting bad behavior. I like how Mark Fitzpatrick thinks of it as a ceasefire.
But my question has to do with the atrocity crimes that the Kim regime is committing, causing death every day. And typically, when we think of ceasefires such as in Syria, the international community demands them because people are dying every day.
So, I can't help but wonder if we should think of ceasefire with respect to North Korea as demanding that they halt their crimes against humanity, against their own citizens, and actually legally, they are also South Korean citizens. So, demanding a halt of that would be quite analogous to a ceasefire in other hot military situations.
KIMBALL: OK. You want to tackle it or I can …
FITZPATRICK: I mean, that goes to the heart of the issue that is always–comes up in any discussion of North Korea's threats. We mostly worry about the threats to us or to North Korea's neighbors and we tend to put aside for the time being the threats to their own people, hoping that it would somehow be resolved as North Korea undergoes a change.
And I, myself, being a nonproliferation specialist, worry more about the ability of North Korea to create mass destruction. Now, you might say they're creating mass destruction in their own country by their human rights violations. But first of all, the idea of stopping their inhumane behavior to their own people is probably not of the same order of stopping the production of fissile material because it really involves a wholesale change to their system.
And that's the outcome of the human rights part of the discussions. And the question really is should human rights be part of the–on the agenda of what we are demanding of North Korea.
And the… I'm sorry to have to say, but I think the more demands you put on a country, the less likely you are to get a result, a satisfactory result. It's kind of like, I think, when Secretary Pompeo made 12 demands of Iran, there are no priorities. He wants a wholesale regime change in Iran.
And I would love a wholesale regime change in North Korea. But I would prefer for the time being to prevent them from being able to annihilate cities elsewhere.
KIMBALL: But I think we have to–we have to keep in mind that–who we're dealing with here and this is an issue that the United States and the world needs to be concerned about. And I think, as you're saying, Mark, we have to be–we have to figure out how we address the many issues and problems that North Korea creates.
And I think the nuclear problem is very complex, we're just in the beginning phase. It's my personal hope that it may open up the way towards a different relationship with North Korea. That is part of the Singapore Summit goals and that may, in turn, help us in the community to better deal with the massive human rights problems in North Korea down the road.
So, I think all these things are related but I agree with Mark. We can't deal with them all at once especially when the structure and the process for the denuclearization process is as unclear as it is today.
And I think just to conclude, I think some of the things that are coming out of our discussion here are that President Trump and Chairman Kim have, with their summit, established a small beachhead for progress on denuclearization and creating a peace regime. But this is going to be a years-long process. It's technically very complex.
There are many questions and choices that still have to be made, definitions that have to be written down. We're a long way from the finish line but both sides are going to need to exert more creativity and energy in order to keep the process moving forward so that this opportunity is not lost.
So, I want to thank Mark and Kelsey for their–for their insights. The Arms Control Association will remain on this case in the coming months and years along with IISS.
I also want to thank Tony Namkung for his very important insights on how we can move forward on the peace talks. So, please, stay in tune with the Arms Control Association on our website, www.armscontrol.org and we will see you next time and we are adjourned. Thanks.